Jae Kim, owner and founder of the Austin-based Chi’Lantro, didn’t make it into ABC’s hit investment show “Shark Tank” on his first two attempts to be on the show. Kim’s concept was to launch a Korean BBQ inspired restaurant chain that had the potential to generate millions in revenue each year. But on Kim’s first attempt to be featured on the investment show, Chi’Lantro was just an idea without a proven track record of sales.
Instead of getting discouraged by not getting on the show, Kim started to put his concept into action by buying a food truck because he didn’t have a lot of money. It was on Kim’s first food truck that he began to refine. The next season of Shark Tank, Kim submitted an application to be part of the show yet again.
Again Kim was denied entry into the show because his business was not far enough along. After all, just because someone is successful as a food truck operator doesn’t mean that their food concept has what it takes to be a large national brand that generates millions on annual revenue. Again, instead of playing the role of victim, Kim got right back to work.
By the third attempt at entering the Shark Tank, Kim had purchased multiple food trucks and was generating over a million dollars in revenue per year. At this point Kim was a no brainer to pitch his food concept to the sharks and ultimately secured a $600,000 investment from real estate mogul and investor Barbara Corcoran for 20% of the business.
A Perfect Match
Long time viewers of the television show know this is not the first food investment that Barbara Corcoran has made. In previous seasons Corcoran invested in the mobile food startup Cousin’s Maine Lobster. By the end of 2015, Cousin’s Maine Lobster had gone from operating only a food truck to selling franchise opportunities, opening a restaurant location, selling lobster through their e-commerce website and generating a reported $15 million on revenue in the process.
Of course Corcoran has had other food businesses successes, including Pipsnacks. According to this article on Inc.com, Corcoran’s investments are now 80% food businesses although she invested in nothing but real estate prior to being an investor of the television show.
Chi’Lantro Food Truck on Shark Tank
Chi’Lantro on the News
Moral of the Story
There are many important entrepreneurial lessons that can be drawn from the Chi’Lantro story. First is not to get discouraged and continue taking steps toward your vision. It would have been easy for Kim to give up after not even being able to pitch his idea in the Shark Tank on his first and second attempts.
Second, if you have a big dreams and want to start the next great restaurant franchise like Panera Bread or a Domino’s Pizza, a food truck can be an effective path to testing the concept and proving its potential to investors. If you can come up with the right concept and are determined to succeed, a food truck continues to be an vessel for accomplishing this.